Seed Distributions for March Madness: A Tool for Bracketologists

Why Pick Favorites?

There is a reason why teams are assigned good seeds: they are good teams. That being said, upsets occur unpredictably, but with regularity. Since 1985, the Pick Favorite strategy of always picking the better seed results in a Final Four of four No. 1 seeds. There are then at most eight ways in which the Final Four and National Championship play out. Using the ESPN scoring system, which gives a score of 1920 for a perfect bracket, the following table gives the possible Pick Favorite bracket scores. Using the Pick Favorite strategy typically provides a reasonable bracket. In some years, it has produced a very good bracket. If you want to avoid being at the bottom of your bracket pool, use Pick Favorite to create your bracket.

Year Possible Pick Favorite Bracket Scores (out of 1920)
1985 830, 990
1986 720, 880
1987 790, 950, 1270
1988 810, 970
1989 700
1990 550, 710, 1030
1991 810
1992 740, 900, 1220
1993 940, 1100, 1260, 1420, 1580
1994 730, 890, 1210
1995 780, 940, 1260
1996 870, 1030, 1350
1997 870, 1030
1998 710
1999 720, 880, 1040, 1200, 1360
2000 590, 750, 1070
2001 750, 910, 1230
2002 810, 970, 1290
2003 700
2004 700
2005 680, 840, 1000, 1160, 1320
2006 630
2007 930, 1090, 1250, 1410, 1570
2008 980, 1140, 1300, 1460, 1620
2009 790, 1060, 1380
2010 620, 780, 1100
2011 570
2012 720, 880, 1200
2013 640, 800, 1120
2014 680
2015 890, 1050, 1210, 1370, 1530
2016 710, 870
2017 1140, 1460
2018 730, 890, 1210
2019 1240
2020 No Tournament
2021 1000, 1320
2022 1120

The following table gives the number of correct Pick Favorite games in the Round of 64, the Round of 32, the Sweet Sixteen, and the Elite Eight. Using the ESPN scoring system, which gives a score of 1280 for a perfect bracket in these four rounds, the following table also gives the possible scores.

year R64 R32 S16 E8 Total
1985 25 9 6 2 830
1986 26 7 4 2 720
1987 23 8 6 2 790
1988 27 9 5 2 810
1989 20 13 4 1 700
1990 25 7 2 1 550
1991 23 13 4 2 810
1992 24 11 5 1 740
1993 26 10 6 3 940
1994 23 11 5 1 730
1995 24 11 6 1 780
1996 23 12 6 2 870
1997 25 9 5 3 870
1998 23 10 5 1 710
1999 20 8 3 3 720
2000 29 7 2 1 590
2001 19 10 5 2 750
2002 25 10 5 2 810
2003 24 9 5 1 700
2004 28 9 4 1 700
2005 24 8 3 2 680
2006 23 10 5 0 630
2007 27 11 7 2 930
2008 24 11 5 4 980
2009 22 14 6 2 900
2010 22 8 4 1 620
2011 25 10 3 0 570
2012 22 11 5 1 720
2013 22 11 3 1 640
2014 24 10 4 1 680
2015 27 9 5 3 890
2016 19 10 6 1 710
2017 26 12 4 2 820
2018 23 7 3 2 650
2019 20 14 5 1 760
2021 22 7 4 2 680
2022 22 11 3 1 640
Mean 23.7 9.9 4.5 1.6 746

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